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To some extent, Cypriot sanctuaries were structured around gendered principles: male deities in general received more dedications of male votives, while goddesses were given more female votive types. In reality, however, the gender breakdown is rarely this simple. Most sanctuaries included the worship of male and female, and sometimes nonbinary, deities, and men, women, and children from various socioeconomic levels participated in sanctuary activities including prayers, votive dedications, ceremonies, festivals, and banquets (as depicted on a famous relief from Golgoi, now in the MMA, fig. 1.11). It is not surprising, therefore, that women featured prominently in the votive record of the island in the Iron Age, nor that they were present in a sanctuary primarily dedicated to male deities. The same questions that complicate the study of Cypriot male images regarding attributes and meaning, but also material, scale, and origins, also apply to limestone and terracotta female statues dedicated in Cypriot sanctuaries.

Women appear as elaborately dressed and bejeweled votaries and perhaps even as priestesses impersonating the goddess in limestone and terracotta at goddess sanctuaries before the end of the seventh century BCE. The female votaries display a great variety of drapery and dress combinations as well as jewelry types (most commonly necklaces, earrings, and bracelets); such elaborate dress displays social status, but also in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East has symbolic value: it connotes beauty, divinity, and even magical powers in literary and textual sources. Not surprisingly, there is debate over which female figures represent votaries and priestesses and which represent divinities, and identification is usually based on particular poses or attributes (e.g., AAP-AM-1366+1595). In particular, the elaborate kalathos found on many limestone statues has been interpreted as an attribute of both human and divine types; a related headdress, the high polos, has been linked to the iconography of a female divinity. More clear are the many depictions of women as veiled supplicants (AAP-AM-850).

Female figures appear in a variety of poses. In limestone, female votaries often bear gifts (e.g., fruits, flowers, small animals, vessels, instruments, or food) held close to the chest in the right or left hand. Significantly, this active participation in votive practice appears on the earliest, as well as later, examples—a situation not mirrored by male votaries, who do not hold offerings in the earlier phases. In terracotta, female figures can hold both arms upraised, or place their hands on or beneath their breasts, at their sides, or hold votive offerings, vessels, food, instruments (lyre, tambourine, drum, etc.), or infants (kourotrophos). They can even be enthroned (if they are divine) or appear in scenes of domestic life—for example, food preparation or childbirth. Early female votive statues, such as those from Arsos and Golgoi-Ayios Photios, are represented with a plain garment and Egyptianizing coiffure with large, prominent necklaces and earrings. By the end of the CA period, some female types are inspired by the Greek korai and wear Ionian dress, while types inspired by the Levant flourish also alongside these, including the dea gravitas figurines. During the CC and Hellenistic periods, Greek influence is more prevalent, as seen on veiled female votaries (AAP-AM-850) and hydriaphoros types. But, as with earlier phases, standard Cypriot types continued throughout these later phases too.

Women also feature prominently in group compositions in terracotta and limestone. They are found in scenes on votive reliefs (see fig. 1.11), in figural scenes of domestic life (e.g., childbirth, food preparation), and in dancing compositions AAP-AM-5126). Additionally, women feature in erotic scenes on vase painting, lamp reliefs, and, in a unique example from Malloura, a limestone composition (AAP-AM-325).

Suggested Citation

Erin Walcek Averett. "Female and Other Types". (2020) In Visualizing Votive Practice: Exploring Limestone and Terracotta Sculpture from Athienou-Malloura through 3D Models. Derek B. Counts, Erin Walcek Averett, Kevin Garstki, Michael Toumazou (Eds.) . Released: 2020-07-28. Open Context. <>

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